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Knox Grammar – A History of Child Abuse and Cover-Ups

Established in 1924, Knox Grammar School is an independent boy’s school for Kindergarten to year 12 students with both a day school and boarding houses. Operated under the Uniting Church of NSW and ACT the school is ultimately managed by a committee of 12-15 members of the Knox Council and the administration of the Headmaster.

Over the course of 2015, 12 former students, and former students’ parents gave evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Sexual Abuse relating to sexual abuse against students during the 33-year period from 1970 to 2003.  

 This evidence follows a 2009 investigation by NSW Police’s Strike Force Aria, which led to the conviction of 5 former Knox teachers of crimes related to indecent assault, sexual assault, and assault against students. There were a further 3 anonymous teachers identified in the Royal Commission who had allegedly engaged in sexual misconduct but have not yet been convicted.  

 The Royal Commission provided further detail as to the responsibility of headmaster Dr Paterson in his knowledge of abuse occurring over this 33-year period, and his failure to enforce child protection policies.  

Knox Grammar Perpetrators of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse  

Roger James 

Roger James was employed as a science teacher at Knox between 1974 and 1977 and further assisted in the establishment of Camp Knox during his employment. In 2009, he was convicted of 2 counts of assault and indecency and served a 12-month suspended sentence. These convictions emerged from allegations of former student ARY, who detailed James’ inappropriate groping both at Camp Knox and on the Knox Campus.  

During James’ teaching at Knox, headmaster Dr Paterson had concerns that James “had become too close to boys in a counselling sense,” and was alerted to his inappropriate behaviour by other staff members. As such, James was prohibited from running school camps. However, upon James’ departure in 1977, Dr Paterson provided a positive reference regarding James’ teaching and suitability to be involved in school camps.  


Adrian Nisbett 

Adrian Nisbett was employed as a part-time teacher in 1971 and was promoted to both a boarding housemaster, a senior teacher and eventually the Director of Students between 1999 and 2004.  In 2010, Nisbett was convicted and pleaded guilty to “2 counts of category 4 sexual assault for an act of indecency on a person under 16 who was in his authority.”

These charges arose from allegations of 3 former students who came forward to give evidence to NSW police. One such incident was on former student ARG who detailed Nisbett’s inappropriate touching and ordering of ARG to pull up his shirt for a polaroid image.  

Allegations of Nisbett’s’ inappropriate touching of students were brought to headmaster Paterson’s attention during Nisbett’s teaching. Paterson removed Nisbett as headmaster, however, was allowed to fill in the housemaster role on occasion and could remain alone with boys on some occasions. Nisbett’s promotion to Director of Students saw one of his responsibilities as being the first contact for allegations of sexual abuse by staff members. During the Royal Commission, Paterson gave evidence that he warned Nisbett; “I hope you are careful with your touching habits with boys.” 

The Royal Commission’s retrospective analyses’ of Nisbett’s actions and reporting to Paterson, showed that Nisbett required further disciplinary action than just his removal from the headmaster role.  


Damien Vance

Damien Vance was the resident headmaster in 1984, whose core responsibility was to care for students in the boarding houses. During his time at Knox, a student complained to headmaster Paterson of Vance’s inappropriate touching and sexual advances, to which Vance admitted. Vance was permitted to resign, but no formal action was made against him at the time. 

Until 2002, Vance remained a teacher in Victoria, to which Paterson gave him a positive reference. He was arrested and convicted of sexual assault and indecency of a person under 16 in 2009.  


Craig Treloar

Craig Treloar was a resident headmaster at Knox in 1982, later being added to the teaching staff until his arrest in 2009. During his time, he was reported to Paterson for sexual misconduct and was suspended for 2 terms, with no notification of the police.  

 Multiple former students gave evidence of Treloar’s misconduct whilst a resident headmaster, including showing the students pornographic videos, making sexual advances and sexually assaulting students.  

In 2010, Treloar was convicted of  “3 counts of indecent assault on a person under 16 and one count of inciting a person under the age of 16 to commit an act of gross indecency.’”


Barrie Steward

Barrie Stewart was employed as a preparatory teacher at Knox from 1972 until 2000. During this time, Dr Paterson and other Senior Staff members were aware of allegations that Stewart sexually assaulted a student. No action was taken to notify the police.  

In 2009 he was convicted of “5 counts indecent assault, 2 counts of category 4 sexual assault.” One such incident was against student Guy Lamond, who detailed Stewart’s inappropriate tickling and touching of his genitals. Lamond further reported witnessing Stewart’s touching of other boys’ genitals whilst getting changed for PE classes. 


The Headmaster – Dr Ian Paterson 

Dr Ian Paterson was the headmaster of Knox from 1969 to 1998. In his role, he was responsible for the administration and operation of the school, as well as implementing decisions made by Knox Council.  

Throughout the Royal Commission, Paterson accepted multiple elements related to his knowledge of sexual abuse occurring at Knox. This evidence included his misleading of Inspector Elizabeth Cullen who was employed in 1996 to investigate Knox’s policies. Paterson admitted to not only misleading the inspector but to intending to protect teachers and failing to identify what he knew about allegations of assault against students.  

The Royal Commission further found that Paterson fostered a culture at Knox which was “dismissive of allegations of sexual abuse”, withholding information from Knox Council and providing misleading staff.


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